I’d seen him before but he didn’t look like his usual self. He was resting on an overturned paint bucket barely able to keep his eyes open. He popped up from the paint bucket and directed me to where I should park like he always has, which I am ALWAYS grateful for. Because I am a nervous driver, being in Malaysia I’ve had to learn to drive on the other side of the road, with a giant car and now TWO screaming children in the back, I am always eternally grateful for the man that helps me squeeze between two tiny cars with hopefully enough room to get the giant car seat out.
Today, I was with just one of the kids. We were on our way to a doctor’s appointment. Today was an easy parking day. As I glanced over at the man who had helped me park, he was back on the paint bucket looking so tired he could barely keep his eyes open. I don’t know that man’s story. But I knew I was going to try to make his day a little bit better by giving him what I had, which was a couple of bucks.
I went about my business. Which turns out, was a series of unfortunate events. I arrived at the doctor’s office and had to wait forever, my daughter peed through her diaper to her clothing and I had forgotten to pack extra diapers. I then didn’t have enough cash to pay the doctor’s bill. I attempted to get cash from the machine across the street but it wouldn’t work, then I returned to my car only to realize I had no cash left to pay for parking. All the while carrying my 6-month-old daughter in her car seat. You know, those car seats that weigh a million pounds? Why wasn’t she in a stroller you ask? You know, because I forgot it. Has anyone else ever had one of these days?
I finally managed to pull together enough random money from my car to pay for parking. Then I hauled my daughter what felt like 20 miles back to the parking pay station only to realize that I did not have enough cash. I almost lost it right then and there. WHAT was I going to do? I hobbled back to my car carrying my 100lb child in her car seat when the man who had helped me park, approached me and insisted on carrying the car seat. I let him and I was so, so grateful.
Once again, I searched my car for money. After a while, I found the jackpot. A spot with a bunch of small bills. Again, I started my journey back to the pay station. By this time I was a sweaty mess. The Malaysian heat and humidity are no joke and the parking man approached me again. Once again he insisted on carrying my daughter in her car seat. I let him. He followed me to the pay station. I paid and he carried her all the way back to my car for me. Gratitude doesn’t explain what I felt. I almost burst into tears as I finally got my daughter into the car to finally leave the parking lot.
This man had no obligation to help me. He asked for nothing in return and it was something that I needed so much at that moment. I gave him the few small bills I had which didn’t amount to much and he repeatedly refused. This time I insisted. It wasn’t much but I had nothing else to give to show how much I appreciated his gesture. I could not even tell him how much I needed someone to show me some kindness because we did not speak the same language.
This situation was a reminder. A reminder that we need to do better. And by we, I mean those of us with privilege. The privilege of time, education, resources, and money. The privilege that many of us have of the class, status or skin color.
Before I was an Earth Mama (officially), I was an advocate of people. People who might not have a voice. I was a champion for people that didn’t have choices like I do or the resources that I do or the PRIVILEGE that I do. Having this experience today reminds me that I don’t have to be one or the other. I don’t have to be an Earth Mama (an advocate of the Earth) OR an advocate for people. I can do both. And I challenge you to do both too.
So Where Do You Start?
1. Start with what you are passionate about.
I’ve always been passionate about people. I love children and feel like they often need people to speak for their needs. Do you have a passion for underrepresented women and girls? Check out Lindi’s blog about keeping Women and Girls in the forefront of climate change solutions.
2. Think about your circles of influence.
Connect with people or organizations through your job, church, neighborhood or maybe your kids’ school. I am a teacher so naturally, I am drawn to schools and education. If you are looking for ideas to use in the classroom check here.
3. Create something that wasn’t before.
Maybe a composting bin for your apartment complex? Go into a school and talk about making better choices when grocery shopping. Maybe you have noticed all the food that goes to waste at work. Consider donating it or setting up a less wasteful system.
4. Make small changes to something that already exists.
Find an existing organization that you are passionate about and brainstorm how you can make their initiatives greener.
Start small but start. Engaging with our communities is critical in the zero-waste movement. Knowing and understanding our communities helps us with privilege understand what we can do to help and be a voice for others that do not have a voice.
It’s your turn to insist. So, how much time do you pledge?